Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) – American Pharoah and Dortmund, both from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, have been made the favorites for Saturday’s 141st running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/4-mile Run for the Roses, the opening leg of racing’s Triple Crown, has an approximate post time of 6:24 p.m. ET with 20 3-year-olds slated to start the most famous horse race in the world.
American Pharoah, last year’s champion 2-year-old, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite and will start the classic from post 18 with Victor Espinoza going for a second straight win. Last year, Espinoza piloted California Chrome to victory in the Run for the Roses,
“I have had all the confidence in him since the first time I rode him at Del Mar (a 4 3/4 length win in the Del Mar Futurity),” Espinoza said of American Pharoah. “The way he won that day, I just said ‘Wow, he’s an amazing horse.'”
Owned by Zayat Stables, American Pharoah is coming into Saturday off an eight-length win in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park three weeks ago. That was just his second race and victory of the year, having previously taken Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes in March.
“He galloped out very strong in both races and in the last one, I was trying to pull him up and go easy with him, but he was pretty tough,” Espinoza said. “He was full of himself and so the outrider helped me out.”
American Pharoah and Espinoza are undefeated in the four races they’ve been partnered. The colt has banked $1,411,500 with four wins from five lifetime starts.
Dortmund, owned by Kaleem Shah, is the 3-1 second choice in the 20-horse field and will be ridden again by Martin Garcia from post 8.
Dortmund rolled to a 4 1/4-length win in the Santa Anita Derby over another Baffert 3-year-old, One Lucky Dane, on April 4. The colt began the year with wins in the Robert B. Lewis and San Felipe Stakes and enters the Kentucky Derby undefeated in six lifetime starts. He has earned $1,289,400.
“It takes a horse with a certain demeanor, and speed and class to be undefeated, 6-for-6 so far,” said owner Kaleem Shah. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m very hopeful that he will do well for himself. That Bob Lewis, the way he came back after being passed by Firing Line, just proves the quality of the horse that he is.”
Baffert has three wins in the Run for the Roses with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
The 8-1 third pick is Blue Grass Stakes winner Carpe Diem, one of three horses in the race trained by Todd Pletcher. Carpe Diem, owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable, will be ridden by John Velazquez from the less than desirable post 2.
“I know the field size is an issue,” Pletcher said. “And I can see both sides of how it is currently working. This is one of those years — with all the very good horses at the top of the lineup – where in the relatively recent past you might have seen a field of only eight or 10. People might take a look and say ‘I don’t think I can beat those horses’ and wait for another day. But now, we’re going to have 20 horses most every time. It has become such an event in itself that you’re all but sure that’s going to happen.”
Carpe Diem has just one other start this season along with the Blue Grass. He won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 and has won four of five career starts for $1,519,800.
Pletcher’s other runners in the race are Materiality and Stanford. The trainer won the Derby with Super Saver in 2010,
Here is the field for the Kentucky Derby in post position order: Ocho Ocho Ocho, 50-1, Elvis Trujillo; Carpe Diem, 8-1, John Velazquez; Materiality, 12-1, Javier Castellano; Tencendur, 30-1, Manny Franco; Danzig Moon, 30-1, Julien Leparoux; Mubtaahij, 20-1, Chris. Soumillon; El Kabeir, 30-1, Calvin Borel; Dortmund, 3-1, Martin Garcia; Bolo, 30-1, Rafael Bejarano; Firing Line, 12-1, Gary Stevens; Stanford, 30-1, Florent Geroux; International Star, 20-1, Miguel Mena; Itsaknockout, 30-1, Luis Saez; Keen Ice, 50-1, Kent Desormeaux; Frosted, 15-1, Joel Rosario; War Story, 50-1, Joe Talamo; Mr. Z, 50-1, Ramon Vazquez; American Pharoah, 5-2, Victor Espinoza; Upstart, 15-1, Jose Ortiz; Far Right, 30-1, Mike Smith.
The also eligibles are Frammento (Corey Nakatani) and Tale of Verve (Brian Hernandez Jr.). Those two won’t draw into the race unless one or two horses are scratched before 9 a.m. ET Friday.
Saturday’s weather forecast calls for partly sunny skies, winds from the west at 5-10 mph with a post time temperature of 74.
The remaining Triple Crown events are the Preakness at Pimlico on May 16 and the Belmont Stakes on June 6.